Home Prices Heated Up In April, Despite Brief Sales Drop From Coronavirus, S&P Case-Shiller Says

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A for sale sign is seen in front of a home as the National Association of Realtors released a report showing that home sales dropped in December of 2017 on January 24, 2018 in Miami, Florida.

Joe Raedle | Getty Images

Home prices strengthened in April, despite a national economic shutdown and a sharp drop in home sales due to the coronavirus.

Prices for existing homes rose 4.7% compared with April 2019, and up from 4.6% in the previous month, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Home Price Index. Price gains have been accelerating since autumn.

The 10-City Composite rose 3.4% annually, which was unchanged from March. The 20-City Composite increased 4% year over year, up from 3.9% in the previous month. Detroit continues to be excluded from 20-City Composite due to price reporting issues caused by the pandemic.

Cities with the strongest annual price gains were Phoenix, Seattle and Minneapolis. They reported increases of  8.8%, 7.3% and 6.4% respectively. Twelve of the 19 cities reported higher price increases in the year ending April 2020 versus the year ending March 2020.

"April's housing price data continue to be remarkably stable," said Craig J. Lazzara, managing director and global head of index investment strategy at S&P Dow Jones Indices. "The price trend that was in place pre-pandemic seems so far to be undisturbed, at least at the national level."

Record low mortgage rates have been giving buyers more purchasing power, thereby helping to keep prices strong. The average rate on the popular 30-year fixed mortgage, however, did jump briefly in March, which would have factored into April closed sales. Rates have since pulled back.

Sales of existing homes dropped to the slowest pace in a decade in April, according to the National Association of Realtors, as open houses were shuttered and the entire house hunting process went online. Not only did buyers pull back, but sellers either waited to list their homes or those already on the market pulled their listings. 

But home sales have rebounded quickly and dramatically, with signed contracts on existing homes in May making the strongest monthly jump since the Realtors began tracking the metric in 2001. The supply of homes for sale continues drop, even as new listings now come on the market. Demand is incredibly strong, suggesting that prices will only get hotter in the coming months. 

"As states and businesses continue expanding activity, homebuyers are showing increasing interest in purchasing homes, particularly those looking to take advantage of enticingly low mortgage rates," said George Ratiu, senior economist at realtor.com. "However, extremely scarce inventory, tight mortgage underwriting and high unemployment continue to be the main challenges for many buyers. The latest weekly housing data shows national inventory is on a steep downward trend."